WDIE Masthead

Year 2001 No. 105, June 19, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Come and Participate in the London Political Forum!
Build the Workers’ Opposition to the "Third Way"!
Let the People Decide to Become the Decision Makers Themselves!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Come and Participate in the London Political Forum!

Call Centre Workers Under Increased Pressure

No to a Second Class Workforce

Action against Plans to Close Care Homes

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Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

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Come and Participate in the London Political Forum!
Build the Workers’ Opposition to the "Third Way"!
Let the People Decide to Become the Decision Makers Themselves!

RCPB(ML) in the London Region is holding a series of meetings of the London Political Forum, building on the success of this programme during the election campaign. In a leaflet promoting the new monthly series, London Region RCPB(ML) says:

The recent General Election, which had the lowest turnout of eligible voters since 1918, has shown that there is growing dissatisfaction with the domination of the political system by the big parties. The workers and other section of the people have no say in selecting the candidates nor in formulating the manifestos, just as after the election they are prevented from determining the direction of the economy or being the real decision makers in society. But the election also presented the beginnings of an alternative to electing the big parties to office, to the agenda of making the monopolies successful in the global market and the whole "Third Way" programme of New Labour, as independent candidates and those representing the interests of their peers not only stood for election but also received significant support throughout the country.

As part of its work to continue to organise for this alternative and build the workers’ opposition to the "Third Way" RCPB(ML) warmly invites everyone to participate in a series of new meetings of the London Political Forum. The Forum aims to raise the level of political discussion in the capital, strengthen the coherence of the forces in London determined to stop the "Third Way" programme of New Labour being carried through, and to discuss the question of what the alternative is to the party-dominated system of government.

Following three successful meetings during the election campaign, the London Political Forum will be held on a regular monthly basis. Invited speakers will share their experience on their struggles against the anti-social offensive, and on organising for the alternative and building the workers’ opposition. All comers are invited to participate in the political discussion.

The first of the new series of monthly meetings will focus on the many issues facing the national minority communities, in particular the struggle to defend the dignity of the communities and to realise the demand that all people of national minority origin should participate in the affairs of the polity as equals who stand second to none.

Speakers include Salvinder Dhillon, Independent Community Candidate Empowering Change and others, especially the youth who participated in the recent election campaign in Ealing Southall in which Salvinder received 1,214 votes.

Tuesday, 26 June, 2001 – 7.30pm
Conway Hall,
Red Lion Square, London WC1R (nearest tube: Holborn)

Article Index

Call Centre Workers Under Increased Pressure

"Call monitoring systems have increased pressure on call centres staff making them feel less like human beings and more like an extension of technology" is the main conclusion of a new UNISON report.

The stresses facing workers in call centres is examined in the report "Holding the Line", which highlights the dramatic increase in the use of modern information technology in transforming the way people work. Although sophisticated technology can take much of the monotony out of work, the report says, in call centres it often does the exact opposite. Instead of freeing workers to take on more creative tasks, the new technology is used to chain them more firmly to their workstations.

The UNISON senior national officer who produced the report, Sol Mean, said, "Being watched is very stressful, perhaps more so when it’s a machine doing the watching." He went on, "When a worker finishes a call, the computer automatically puts the next caller through – there is no choice, no time to make a note or have some breathing space. Some employers aim for their call handlers to be on the telephone for as much as 80% of their shift – this practice will inevitably take its toll on workers’ health."

It is worth noting that this is not the first report to have been produced on the stress which call centre workers face. The TUC itself produced a report dealing with the way workers at call centres were not only dehumanised but faced very degrading conditions of work. In a similar fashion to the TUC report, the UNISON report stresses that the union wishes to work positively with employers to ensure best practice, and bring them up to "workplace of excellence" standards.

There is no doubt that the workers should fight to change the dehumanising and degrading environment. But it is unwarranted to think that this problem can be solved once and for all and the workers satisfactorily resolve their areas of concern by the methods the union and the TUC have been suggesting. Workers need to discuss and consider solutions themselves, bearing in mind that new technology is consistently being used against the interests of the workers, whether to create redundancies on the one hand, or create the modern equivalent of the sweat shops of the 19th century on the other.

Workers are constantly being told that it is, for example, in the interests of "consumers" in such circumstances. But this is a complete sham. In the particular case of call centres, as the report points out, in some centres "a light automatically flashes up telling them to ‘wrap-up’ if the equipment detects a longer than average call". This is typical of the methods where service to the public is never the central concern. Not only is the recourse to "consumers" a hoax when the people as a whole are the "consumers", including the workers. To reduce the people’s needs to that of "consumers" is part of the dehumanising process that society would like the masses of the people to accept without question.

The answer for the workers and the broad masses of the people alike is for them to affirm their rights, both as human beings and as workers. They cannot accept that their problems will be solved by trying to convince their employers that "best practice" must be followed.

Article Index

No to a Second Class Workforce

Workers at British Gas Services have rejected a management plan for new starters to work on Sundays and get less holidays. UNISON members voted no to these proposals in a ballot by two to one.

The outcome of the ballot was the subject of an emergency motion to UNISON’s Energy Conference in Brighton on Monday. The motion congratulates the workers on their principled stand and seeks to ensure that the "full resources of the union are brought to bear in an effort to secure a successful outcome to the dispute".

The workers involved in the dispute operate British Gas Services call centres and provide administrative back-up. The dispute arose as part of negotiations for the 2001 pay round, and the workers involved also rejected a 3.1% pay offer. Over half (56%) registered their readiness to take industrial action to achieve an improved offer.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said: "Our members believe that reduced conditions for new starters is the thin end of the wedge, and heralds an attack on the terms and conditions of all staff. There is a deep mistrust of British Gas management." He continued: "Members should be congratulated for taking this principled stand and resisting the introduction of a two-tier workforce."

Plans for a ballot on full industrial action will now be put in place if no agreement with British Gas is forthcoming.

The results of the ballot show that workers are vigilant about the need for unity to counter the tactics of the monopolies such as British Gas who seek to divide the workers wherever possible in order to drive down their wages and seek the maximum profit so as to increase their "competitiveness".

Article Index

Action against Plans to Close Care Homes

As many as 1,000 social services workers on Merseyside are holding a 24-hour strike in protest at plans to shut seven care homes. Strong support for the action is reported, with pickets being placed outside the homes.

Sefton Council, which runs the homes, has said that they have to be closed on health and safety grounds. However, the Sefton branch secretary of UNISON, Wendy Brownlow, said: "We think the proposals we gave the council to prevent the closure of the homes were adequate and have been dismissed without much further consultation. Residents that I have talked to support our action in the hope that in the long term it will keep the homes open."

The Council is now the one that is accusing the care staff of being "irresponsible" and of targeting the very people they say they want to protect. However, the staff have pointed out that the action is being held as a last resort.

Care workers, social services staff and health workers are increasingly finding themselves at loggerheads with the authorities. Privatisation and market forces are often at the nub of the disputes. It is insulting to suggest that it is the workers who are the ones who are being irresponsible in such circumstances. At the base of all these issues is that the workers and staff are not able to decide on the direction of these social services and are continually having to assert that the vulnerable, the elderly and the children affected should be at the centre of consideration.

Article Index

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